Dan and Justy Down Under


March 13, 2005

Dan or Justy

Oztek: Sunday

Today the theme was decompression. We took in a very accessible talk by Dr. Andrew Fock on a comparison of the Haldane and Bubble Models. Lots of pretty pictures and helpful info.

There was a panel discussion later on "Why are so many techincal divers getting bent?" The consensus revolved around 3 points:

  1. More extreme dives are being attempted.
  2. More aggressive schedules are being followed.
  3. There is a general lack of appreciation for individual variation vs. strong focus on model choice. The former is much bigger than the latter. This is a hugely important point.
I spoke afterwards with Dr. Simon Mitchell, a Kiwi who is a very accomplished deep rebreather diver and also Chair of the UMHS. I suggested that the UMHS might prepare a short document outlining some best practices for educating deco divers about risk and the meaning of decompression theory for an individual. He said he would bring it up at their next meeting.

Dr. Mitchell also led an accident analysis for the recent death of David Shaw in South Africa. Shaw was attempting to retrieve the body of a diver lost 10 years earlier in the Boesmangat cave, at a depth of roughly 900 feet. There is no safe way to do this. On his first dive in the cave, he aborted his mission to set a depth record when he found the body. Before he left, he laid some line to help find the body quickly on a subsequent dive.

Shaw took a month to plan a return. He wore a head-mounted video camera, which is why we know so much about his demise. Mitchell was at pains to point out that he wasn't criticizing Shaw, and that this kind of accident analysis is intended to help the living stay that way. Shaw already paid the ultimate price for his mistakes. We shouldn't pile on.

Mitchell did not show the video. He talked us through what it shows. The line laid on the previous dive was quite slack and laying about on the cave floor. The work of dealing with the body was greater than Shaw anticipated (the body was half-skeletal and half intact, but buried in mud). The combination of increased taskload, at least a 150' equivalent narcotic depth, and the work of breathing gas at 28 atmospheres all added up to CO2 buildup. He died gasping for breath, entangled in his own line, an unused pair of scissors in his hand.

Mitchell then showed pictures of the teardown of Shaw's rebreather. There were non-stock parts at several points that obviously increased the work of breathing. What's amazing is that Shaw was able to function, just, in spite of these maladaptations. When he ventured near the limits of human survivability, he failed.

We ended the day at the IMAX theater taking in James Cameron's latest submersible adventure. Cameron's co-producer, Andrew Wight, was in attendance and gave a highly photographic talk about the logistical challenges of multi-ocean, multi-submersible, sea-floor diving. "Aliens of the Abyss" is a fun trip.

I can't comment on the photo track talks, but of them Leigh Bishop from the UK stands out. He and his group specialize in sunk ocean liners. There are very many near the UK, but most are in hard to reach places. And deep, to boot. He specializes in the tripod-enabled long exposure shots. His results are stellar.

It was something he said, however, that has stayed with me. He said we are living in the golden era of shipwreck discovery. Not all that long from now, these wrecks will be iron deposits on the ocean floor. A sobering thought and one that gets me excited about what is possible.

Sunday morning transport turned out to be a nighmare. Our caravan park is a bit outside the city, with easy access to a bus/train combo to get into the city. But Sunday morning, it became clear that any system that is usually in place ceases to exist this one day of the week. After a long wait, and the realization that we were going to be VERY late for the first presentation, we decided to cab it. This was not the bad idea, but both our frustration at the situation blocked our shit-meters. So, we didnt, nor could we, do anything about the cabbie taking us out of our way.

Upon arriving at the conference, and finally finding some calories we got into the groove of things. Today, there would be more discussions on deep wreck dives. Yesterdays presentation by Peter Szyszka on the Wilhelm Gustlov, a wreck in the Baltic Sea, had wet my appetite for more. The presentation are all accompanied by photographs, sometimes video of dives, and detailed discussions of the expedition details.

These people are the cowboys of scuba! They are diving deeper, longer and sucking more money with each inhalation than most anybody can imagine. Its a treat to be able to ask them questions...after your jaw has finally shut and you actually think of one.

As far as synchronicity goes, I got another fun dose here. Out of boredom, I started reading a book of Dan's a few days ago. The book is interesting, though dense, account of deep water thermal vents, the source of life, evolution and the fossil record. Non-Darwinians need not apply! Well, Oztek has organized a screening and discussion of the new IMAX film 'Aliens of the Abyss' by James Cameron. The topic of this one? Oh yeah, deep thermal vents, source of life and outer space exploration! Yo!

The film is actually 3D, not merely IMAX. So, there are 2 HD cameras side by side to approximate human vision. Last nights talk with Andy Wight, the producer of this one as well as Titanic and other Cameron underwater explorations, turned us onto the technical aspects of these dives and filming processes. I was totally thrilled to see the film, and absolutely recommend it for a couple aspects. Its a very interesting topic, covers our deep water as well as outer space life exploration. And the 3D kicks ass! what are you still reading this for?

Itinerary Highlights
January 20: Winery Tour
21-23: Moreton Bay Diving
25: Australia Zoo
26-30: Lady Elliot Island
February 13: Diving the Yongala
15-17: Cape Tribulation + Daintree Rain Forest
17-20: Atherton Tablelands
22-28: Coral Sea Diving Liveaboard
March 11-13: OzTek Dive Conference: Sydney
14: Fly to New Zealand
20: Poor Knights Islands Diving
31: Mt. Cook
April 2-4: Queenstown
TBD: To Be Dreamed

Digital Pix Courtesy of Shimmivision.com
More Digital and Film Pix Coming Soon.